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Adrian Wooldridge

Sweden Is Rethinking What Makes It Great

The Nordic country is searching for a new balance between a commitment to globalization and a recognition of society’s needs for roots.

A costly proposition.

A costly proposition.

Photographer: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

For the past three decades, Sweden has confused foreigners with its combination of a large welfare state and neoliberal policies such as abolishing the inheritance tax and applying market principles to the state. When Bernie Sanders, the American left’s presidential candidate, cited Sweden as an ideal of “democratic socialism,” he was not likely thinking of universal school vouchers and private pensions. Now Sweden is set to confuse observers again with a new combination of a globalized economy and restrictive policies toward immigration.

The first foreigner-confounding confusion was the work of neoliberal intellectuals at think tanks such as Timbro who enjoyed remarkable success in redesigning government policies. The second is the work of the Sweden Democrats who have moved from the neo-Nazi fringes to the center of power as Sweden’s second biggest party.